The New York Jets are in need of both an outside linebacker and a safety. Unfortunately, both holes won’t be filled with the 16th pick unless the team trades down and acquires more picks later in the draft, although they will be selecting from a decreased pool of talent if they choose that route. Fortunately, the Jets also have the 47th and 77th pick in the draft to address whatever they don’t address in round one. Here is a look at a few players they could target either at safety or outside linebacker:
Harrison Smith, Safety, Notre Dame – Opinions vary widely of him, with some seeing Smith as a borderline first round pick and others thinking he looks more like a third or fourth round prospect, Smith is versatile enough to play in the box and off the ball in the center field role. As a junior he had 7 interceptions but followed up last year with zero despite having 10 pass break ups. He performed well at the combine which has seemed to stabilize his stock as a second round pick. Smith was a two year captain at Notre Dame.
Andre Branch, OLB, Clemson – The Jets have shown a good amount of interest in Branch, who could sneak into the bottom of the first round which means they may have to trade up from 44 to grab him. Last season he had 10.5 sacks, with 4 coming in a single game against Virginia Tech. Branch had a strong combine and pro day, showing good speed and explosiveness. There is some concern about him transitioning into a full time outside linebacker but in the Jets defense, he will get to put his hand in the dirt in some pass rushing situations.
George Iloka, Safety, Boise State – He has good size (6’4, 225 pounds) but many of the pre-draft concerns are about his pass coverage skills and stiffness in his hips, which would be an issue since the Jets signed their inside the box safety in LaRon Landry. Iloka didn’t record any interceptions last season and had a couple of shouting matches with coaches on the sideline.
Markelle Martin, Safety, Oklahoma State – Considered a pure free safety. In 2010 he won the Alamo Bowl MVP thanks to a 62 yard interception return for a touchdown and breaking up two other passes. Last season, he had 74 tackles, 11 pass break ups but zero interceptions. Martin also recently had a pinched nerve in his knee which made him miss working out at the NFL Combine. He is 6-1, 207 pounds.
Vinny Curry, Outside Linebacker, Marshall – He racked up 11 sacks last season, and was able to run a 4.64 at his Pro Day despite being 266 pounds. There has been some chatter about him sneaking in the first round because of his versatility to play both in a 4-3 and 3-4 system. Obviously, the Jets seek versatile players because of their high number of personnel packages. He could end up producing at the same level of a player like Courtney Upshaw despite going lower in the draft.
Ronnell Lewis, Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma – Starting to receive a good amount of hype as a great value pick in the second round. Lewis is a solid all-around player who was nicknamed “The Hammer” by his teammates…sounds like the type of player Rex Ryan would be interested in. Last season he had 59 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. Lewis has had injury issues in the past with his back and knee.
Trumaine Johnson, Safety, Montana – He has good physical skills, running a 4.5 forty at 6-2, 204 pounds and performed well at the combine. The Jets might be a little gun shy about taking a FCS level player after seeing how Vladimir Ducasse has developed but if coached up properly, he was the ability to turn into a very good player in time. Last season he had two interceptions and played well against Tennessee with 7 tackles, a pass break up and a forced fumble.
Bruce Irvin, Outside Linebacker, West Virginia – Irvin could be Aaron Maybin 2.0, at 245 pounds and with a ton of speed to get after the passer. But what else can be bring to the defense along with situational pass rushing? I am not sure you could play him and Maybin at the same time. He record 8.5 sacks last year after having 14 the year before.